What’s That Burning Flesh Smell? Oh, Right. I’ve Been Branded: Part Two

So the voice, which I am coming to think of more and more, as God, said: “Get a Volvo.” I listened. I have a Volvo, a 2004 Cross Country Wagon with 100,000 miles on it. It cost $8,000, and once we traded in the Scion, it was 6 K. Not bad for a dream.

A confession: I immediately named the car Karin, after Ingemar Bergman’s mother from one of my favorite movies (and definitely my favorite of his), Best Intentions. I don’t actually call the car that, out loud, but I feel the name, deeply. Another confession: branding doesn’t hurt. It feels good. Like I found my chair. And it’s big, made of black leather that smells a little bit like dog + the sandalwood I keep dabbing into it. It sits atop a very low to the ground-feeling strong engine that I trust, for whatever reason, even though I fully realize it might break down due to its age. What can I say? I love my Volvo.

Now, I don’t really believe that God wants me to drive any car. But that God voice wasn’t really telling me to buy a Volvo, per se. It was telling me to just do it, go for it, test the waters of this RANDOM boundary you have set for yourself around cars, specifically the thing about never having one you like. My teacher, Daido Roshi, who died a few years back, used to always say: Trust Yourself. That was his big teaching. This is easy-ish when the voice is telling you one thing that you may or may not feel comfortable accepting. But what about in the case of genuine conflict, as in my favorite line from Madame Bovary:

She wanted to die, but she wanted to go to Paris.

Now that there is a pickle.

Or to bring it home: I want to save money for Italy, but I want to buy those awesome new clogs. Or I want to conserve the earth’s resources, but I want drive a Volvo. I want to sit in the morning, but I want to sleep in. I want what I want when I want it, but I want to be satisfied.

This Ango, which is a 3 month training period in many Buddhist traditions, based on the times when wandering monks had to gather in monasteries during the rainy season in India, we, in the Mountains and Rivers Order, are studying Shantideva’s classic text, The Way of the Boddhistava, and I am using the version commented on by Pema Chodron. It is pretty great. In it, Shantideva writes:

Indeed, O foolish and afflicted mind, You want, you crave for everything, This “everything” will grow and turn To suffering increased a thousandfold.

Dang. A thousandfold?

So then, why is God telling me to buy a Volvo? This is my take: because I needed a new car.

But, as Pema Chodron reminds us:

Worldly delights could, of course, support our awakening. When we are comfortable and at ease, we can devote more time to meditation and benefiting others. Usually, however, they lure us into further busyness and shenpa [grasping]. As Trungpa Rinpoche put it, “Aren’t we ridiculous?

Indeed we are. Gluttons for samsara.